Budget first-lens wide-angle options for a Canon 350D purchase?
September 11, 2006 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Budget first-lens wide-angle options for a Canon 350D purchase? I'm looking at buying the latter, and want to find the most bang for few bucks on the former.

I'm considering getting a 350D, and for my first (and for a while only) lens, I'm interested in something relatively wide and fast. However, I get the impression that's not a very economical proclivity—especially the "fast" part.

What are my options if I want to spend less than $300, or less than $150, on a lens that at least trends wide-ish?

It's my understanding that a 50mm lens (acquirable for $80-ish dollars? new) behaves more like an 80mm for a non-SLR; I'm worried that my desire to get more than portraits would be stymied by such a lens. I want something wider.
posted by cortex to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Neurosis alert: I don't much like buying used, or buying over the Internet. Or both. I'm willing to listen to reason, but know that my preference is to walk away from a retail checkout with a shrinkwrapped box and a receipt.
posted by cortex at 2:09 PM on September 11, 2006

Yes, your lens acts like ~80mm equivalent, but it's a FOV (Field of View Crop) not actually a zoom.

(Way more info at www.dpreview.com)

As to the lens, a ~30mm is what you're looking for, for a 50mm equivalent FOV on an APS sensor.

Something like this sigma 18-50mm would suit, though the F3.5-5.6 will not make good indoor (generally lower light) shots very good without a flash, and you say you want a portrait lens.

A 28mm F1.8 would be an excellent indoor portrait lens, but it's out of your budget range.

I'm happy with a 50mm F1.8 though mine is Nikon on a D50, it's the same size sensor. You have to step back a little further, but it's the cheapest way to get something that is decent indoors (F1.8) without ending up in the poorhouse.
posted by defcom1 at 2:22 PM on September 11, 2006

Cheap, wide, bright: Zentiar 16mm 2.8

No AF but... it's < $100. I have about 10 EF mount lenses, six of them Ls, and yet the zenitar is always in my bag.
posted by jedrek at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2006

Yeah, you're not going to get anything wide and fast for $300, especially not if you insist on paying retail, but even if not. Tamron has a 17-50mm f/2.8 for under $500 that might be in the vein of what you want.
posted by kindall at 2:27 PM on September 11, 2006

They just announced the 400d, so you may want to wait a bit. It's a pretty serious upgrade.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:34 PM on September 11, 2006

There is a lot of choice:

- Sigma 18-50 f/2.8
- Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-?
- Tamron 17-50 f/2.8
- Tamron 28-105 f/?

The kit lense for 350D is Canon 17-55 f/3.5-5.6. The best thing about it, it the cost: it's around $100. It's a decent lense. It slow and the build quality is iffy, but the performance it delivers is on par with some much more expensive lense.

Myself, I'm trying to decide between the Tamron 17-50 and Sigma 18-50. It's so hard to make an objective decision, but I'm probably gonna gowith the Tamron. dpreview.com forums are you friend.
posted by aeighty at 2:41 PM on September 11, 2006

Primes. I use my Sigma 20mm f1.8 a ton, though I got it used for about $100 less than the $400 retail and I probably wouldn't have bought Sigma if that deal didn't pop up. Regardless, I use it a ton for an everyday lens, and find myself using my Canon 17-40mm f4L less and less. DaShiv uses the 30mm cousin of it quite a bit at meetups, I believe, FWIW - which I borrowed for the SF meet about a half year ago.

That, plus the 50mm f1.8, and then later perhaps a 105mm f1.8 caliber lens for another $300-400 is a good basic kit. Zooms are just going to give you crappier glass for more money with about equivalent functionality. Don't underestimate fast compared to zoomy.

(You do know there's a 400D upcoming, right?)
posted by kcm at 2:49 PM on September 11, 2006

Response by poster: They just announced the 400d...

You do know there's a 400D upcoming, right?

Heh. A photography nut friend who follows such things incessentally (and spends a great deal more on equipment than I'm willing to) brought up the 350D as much as anything in response to the impending release of the 400D—on the reasoning that (a) I'm a bit cheap, and (b) the appearance of the 400D may drive the already likeable cost of the the 350D down a little more.

Regardless, $600-and-change turns out to be just about the right price to make me seriously look at picking up a DSLR, after a few years of shooting off a functional but limited Minolta point-and-shoot. The 400D does look accordingly prettier, but it's also accordingly more expensive, and suddenly I'm talking $1000 just to buy a camera and a decent lens, which carries me back into magical "maybe next year" territory. The price-point matters to me a lot—I've been waiting a while to feel like I can get enough camera for little enough cash, and the 350D seems to be ringing that bell.

(I grew up shooting on a rusty Konica SLR. Loved it to death, but didn't have the energy or money or facilities to keep up the darkroom habit. In the enusing 8-10 years, I've come to miss using a real SLR-style camera—the weight of it, the hands-on control.)
posted by cortex at 2:58 PM on September 11, 2006

Have you checked out this page?
posted by Calloused_Foot at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wide is boring. Superwide. Much more rewarding.

~$500 for a third party lens.
Tokina 12-24
Tamron 11-18
Sigma 10-20
posted by mmdei at 4:40 PM on September 11, 2006

Also. The dpreview forums are filled with morons. Stay away. The reviews are awesome, however.
posted by mmdei at 4:41 PM on September 11, 2006

Honestly, if you're not looking to spend much, I'd suggest just giving the Canon 18-55 kit lens a try. It's a start, at least.

Note that, due to the 350D's cropped sensor, the 18-55 won't really seem all that wide even at its widest setting. If you want to do honest-to-goodness wide angle photography with the 350D, you'll need to go with a super-wide lens... which will cost you. When I'm shooting with a 300D and need to do wide angle work, I use a Canon 10-22, which runs $700-$800 new.

But, yeah... if you're just getting started, I'd start with the 18-55 and go from there. It's a cheap lens, so you won't find many good reviews on photography forums and the like (let's face it... photography forums are just as much about playing the "who has the most expensive gear?" game as they are about actual photography), but it's still a Canon lens and, thus, has decent optics.

Oh, and definitely pick up the Canon 50mm 1.8 if you're looking for a good portrait/medium telephoto lens. It's like getting a Ferrari for the price of a Kia.
posted by jal0021 at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2006

If you can live with a fixed focal length, the 20mm f/2.8 is amazing. Super sharp and worth every penny. If you MUST have a zoom lens, I'd look at the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - its small, relatively inexpensive and much better than the cheapo kit lenses Canon is offering these days.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:36 AM on September 12, 2006

I have the 350D, which I should say is a great camera, and although 10mp in the 400D would be nice it's not such a big improvement, and the status LCD they removed is very handy. I also have the Canon 50mm 1.8, it's a great buy for like 80 bucks, and you might try the 28mm 2.8 although it's around $220 street at the moment I think. I'm looking for a decent wide zoom as well, probably going to end up getting something like what aeighty mentioned, a 17-50 Tamron or something. Jedrek's 16mm looks nice too...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:37 AM on September 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. This has done a lot to bolster my original take on the situation. I think I've got some good things to consider in the long run, as lenses go. And in the short term?

Honestly, if you're not looking to spend much, I'd suggest just giving the Canon 18-55 kit lens a try. It's a start, at least.

I'm thinking that I'll do just that. Practically speaking, the jump in image quality from years-old pointnshoot to this body with even the kit lens will probably knock my socks off; and having the flexibility of that 18-55 range will likely help me get an idea of what sort of lenses I want to spend extra cash on going forward.
posted by cortex at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2006

I have the Tamron 17-50/2.8, which I'm very satisfied with. That clocks in at around $450US. If you're unwilling to spend that much, get the standard kit lens (which in reality isn't that bad when stopped down to f/8) and the 50mm/1.8, which will set you back close to a $100 a piece.

I agree that an ultra wide-angle lens like the Tokina 12-24 can be more fun, but it's awfully limiting if it's going to be your only lens. Pick one up after you've got a more standard 17-something kit lens.

And I'd urge you to get the 400D over the 350D. The higher megapixels, anti-dust system, and improved autofocus will all be worth the relatively little you'd save buying a 350D.
posted by alidarbac at 8:41 AM on September 12, 2006

I have the kit lens, and a f4.0 70-200 L series lens (which is obviously not wide).

The L series is definitely a nicer lens in many ways, better build quality, faster, better image quality, but I find the kit lens acceptable, image quality-wise. At some point I may replace it was the sigma f2.8 18-50, but mostly because I like to shoot in natural light whenever possible.

As for the 400D, the increaced megapixels is attractive only because they claim to have kept the same signal to noise ratio (more megapixels often means more noise/worse low-light performance).

I think the main thing that stands out for me about the 400D is the much larger buffer, which allows longer bursts of continuous shot before it has to pause. The improved autofocus is also attractive. I think the best thing is that it brings down the pricepoint for a very capable consumer SLR.
posted by Good Brain at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2006

The kit lens (18-55/3.5-5.6) is fairly usable stopped down to f/8 or so, but is downright bad wide-open (and it's not even fast there). IME, it's very much a sunny-day lens.

The old adage about lens goes "pick any two: fast, good, or cheap", and it's especially true with wides. Therefore, you're going to have to compromise make some compromises on one of those three factors. IMO, for fast (i.e. faster than f/2.0) crop-body primes, your best options are either the Sigma 20/1.8 (wide) or Sigma 30/1.4 (normal). For fast wide-ish zooms, both the Tamron 17-50/2.8 or Sigma 18-50/2.8 have good reputations. The super-wide choices are all slower (often much slower) and likely more expensive as well.

In my experience, the 350D's dim, tiny, and low-contrast screen/viewfinder combo is wholly inadequate for manually focusing a lens at f/2.8 (even a wide), so I would stay away from going the cheap manual-focus route (unless you'll be solely doing tripod work wide-open). All crop-body DSLRs have viewfinders that compare extremely poorly to older SLR's that were actually designed for manual focusing.

With the 400D's introduction, 350D's official retail price has dropped by $100, so there are some bargains to be had. However, the 350D's autofocus is rather poor under low light; 400D supposedly uses the better autofocus system of the 20D/30D. Having used both a 20D and 350D side-by-side, I personally feel the autofocus upgrade itself is worth the higher price of admission of the 400D if you plan to use the camera in challenging lighting conditions (especially indoors). It's often frustrating to use a fast lens for available light work, only to find out your camera's autofocus can't keep up.
posted by DaShiv at 12:51 PM on September 12, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I went and did it. Despite compelling arguments re: the 400D, I decided to run with my original inspiration (cost, instant gratification), and the suggestion of the 18-55 kit lens, and so far the result is what I'd hoped for: I'm completely delighted.

Still very much getting used to it, after a couple of days of playing with it this weekend. The 18mm end of the kit zoom is satisfyingly wide, the AF performance of the camera is pleasing, the ability to really go manual and tell the camera what to do is like coming home. And the performance in lowlight is a marked enough improvement over my pointnshoot that I don't think I'll be screaming for new lenses in the short term.

Here's a blurry picture!
posted by cortex at 2:03 PM on September 18, 2006

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